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Paxson Counting on New Bulls

Luol Deng “I think that my offense comes from what I do with my defense,” stated Deng. “Playing defense hard gets me going offensively." (Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images)

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    June 25, 2004 -- Less than 24 hours after they were selected in NBA Draft 2004, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Chris Duhon were at the Berto Center to meet their new coaches, a few new teammates and, of course, the media.

    “We told them that we’re counting on them,” John Paxson said about a conversation he and Head Coach Scott Skiles had with the team’s three draft picks minutes before they were officially introduced on Friday.

    “We need guys who are ready to come in and contribute and give us some minutes and some time and help us win basketball games,” Paxson continued. “I’m confident that they will.”

    Most experts consider Ben Gordon to be extremely NBA-ready, physically and mentally, demonstrating the benefits of attending college for three years.

    “I have all the tools, and I feel I’m ready to make an instant impact on this team,” stated Gordon, who the Bulls took with the third overall pick.

    Deng, who played one year at Duke, brings a diverse, well-rounded background. But does he have the toughness that it takes to succeed in the NBA?

    “I’m not the same person on the court,” says Deng. “I’m different when I’m off the court. Off the court, I don’t need to be aggressive or anything. But [when I’m on it], I’m competing and I try to get the best of my opponents so I need to have a different attitude.”

    In what must have been music to Paxson and Skiles’ ears, each of the three players were asked about their defensive ability.

    “Defense is all about wanting to stop your man,” explained Gordon. “It comes from inside. You don’t want to get embarrassed because it’s a long season and guys are going to be coming at you every night.”

    “I think that my offense comes from what I do with my defense,” stated Deng. “Playing defense hard gets me going offensively. When I go out there I try to do everything I can to win. That doesn’t mean I have to score more than the other team, it may mean stopping the other team. I just believe that for me to get going, I have to be aggressive on defense.”

    “I embrace [the defensive mindset],” said Duhon. “One of the strong points of my game is at the defensive end and it’s something I take a lot of pride in. Whatever the coach needs me to do, whether its pressure the guy full court of chase guys around screens, I’m capable of doing it because I have the heart and the will to do it.”

    Despite having diverse roots far from the Midwest, Gordon and Deng talked of being supporters of the Bulls when they were younger.

    “Being from New York, a lot of people criticized me, but I’ve always been a Bulls fan,” said Gordon, who said that most of his family was born in Jamaica. “To hear my name called by the Bulls at number three, I was very excited.”

    “They only showed the playoff games, but Chicago was always on TV,” explained Deng, who lived in England when Michael Jordan’s Bulls were winning titles. “The games would be at night here but at like five in the morning over there. I stayed up and watched and went to school right after. I was a big fan.”

    Besides being new teammates, all three players share another common bond, coming from highly successful collegiate programs at UConn and Duke.

    “That’s why they brought us in,” Duhon stated. “We’re winners and we’re competitors. They want to get the team back to the glory days and they know it’s going to take a lot of hard work. They have a lot of confidence to bring us in with our winning attitudes. That’s what we came here to do. We came here to win and we’re not going to settle.”

    - Adam Fluck, Bulls.com